In honor of Black History Month, I’ve asked a number of friends and colleagues to contribute guests posts sharing their wisdom about how to live in a world where so much is shifting, and so much stays exactly the same. I encourage you to let these words sink in. – Mike
The dealers in the bodies of men erect their stand in the presence of the pulpit, and they mutually help each other. The dealer gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit, and the pulpit, in return, covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity.
-Frederick Douglass,* Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave
White Evangelicals, I need you to do better.
Watching so many of my fellow Christians so fervently support the rise of President Trump gave me pause and served to broaden the disconnect I feel with Evangelicals. I’ve historically identified as one. But somewhere along the way, “Evangelicals” became a byword, synonymous with “American white Republican Christian,” leaving a whole lot of us behind. You should be leading the charge against injustice, intolerance, hate, and destruction of the environment – yet your silence has become your message.
The Church promises a better way for the world, but we can’t seem to get it right ourselves. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once famously said “it is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” President Trump’s rhetoric has created a hostile climate and emboldened people’s racism. It has stripped away the polite veneer, reminding us that we aren’t as “post-racial” as we dared to dream.
The promise of healing under President Obama remains unfulfilled. With the anger, fear, and frustration behind this electoral whitelash, we have a lot of work ahead of us.
When I have heard Evangelicals finally speak up, it’s to denounce how the rest of us protest injustice. Acts of protest, acts of civil disobedience, by their nature and intent, disrupt the natural order of things. That’s the point. The natural order needs to be questioned; the fact that not everyone experiences this natural order equally needs to be highlighted.
For example: if “All Lives Matter” was the case in practice, there would never be a need for Black Lives Matter. To go one step further, if All Lives Matter was the way things really are, when a black life was cut down unjustly, all people of all races would rally in objection. Instead, we have your silence and inaction.
Please stay with me, my white Evangelical friends: Before you get lost in reflex-like “terrorist organization” rhetoric, to say “Black Lives Matter” is a reminder. There is an unspoken “too” (as in “Black lives matter, too”) because it’s obvious that to many people they don’t. Black Lives Matter is not a difficult concept to grasp unless a person willfully doesn’t want to. Hiding behind #alllivesmatter is a distraction, an act of erasure, where people retreat to in order to cover their indifference with platitudes.
The simple fact is that Jesus often emphasized specific groups of people. The poor. Those whom others—the majority, the system—would tend to discount or condemn. The marginalized. Those denied a voice. The persecuted. His was a ministry of empathizing with ‘the other.’ He stood in opposition to oppression and systematic racism.
Pro-life activists retort “but the Supreme Court…”, summarizing their logic of electing a super-villain by appealing to Trump’s overtures of outlawing abortion. but by not denouncing racist and sexist and xenophobic rhetoric, you single issue-voters basically sent the signal that African-Americans, Latinos, women, the LBGTQ community, Muslims, and poor lives don’t matter. Being pro-life doesn’t mean that you stop caring about us once we’re born. Being pro-life means – and here’s where you get to say it – that all life is valuable: the unborn, the under-served, the abandoned, the forgotten.
With verses like “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40) and “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (I John 3:17), the Church is charged to take care of the poor. How you welcome the outsider, how you treat “the least of these”—be they immigrants, refugees, the voiceless, the disenfranchised—defines you as a culture and as a country. Yours should be the first voice in a chorus of welcome and compassion, not so scared that you forget what the gospel message should look like.
People notice when you have no problem calling out sin…unless racism is involved. Then suddenly you “don’t see color.”
People notice that racially charged language—playing to white fears—is not a deal-breaker for you.
You are called to do God’s work of reconciliation and redemption. This means you have to confront injustice whenever you see it, defend the disenfranchised (even at a sacrifice of your self-interests), and love one another.
Yet as long as it doesn’t affect your neighborhood, gentrification doesn’t matter.
Pipelines and clean waterways don’t matter.
You’re not in a position to demand that others build bridges to you when you rally around building walls. Which brings to mind another quote from Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn.
Evangelicals, you’ve lost whatever prophetic voice you had. You have to earn the right to speak into people’s lives; if they don’t feel loved or cared about, then you’ve missed the point of your faith. There’s no problem with your spirituality informing your politics, but there’s a huge problem with your politics informing your spirituality.
It looks like you’ve sold your soul to Republican politics, speaking more to an American Gospel than the message of Christ. Christians need to bear witness to the biblical story within a cultural context; this is unavoidable. However, we are to do so without being co-opted by our culture. In other words, don’t confuse a civil religion with Jesus-flavored rhetoric (American Christianity) with a Jesus-shaped Gospel. Jesus didn’t die for lower taxes, smaller government, pro-business policies, and an individualistic worldview!
Keep the faith. Please, live out your mission to love the world. Love your neighbor. Love your enemies. Love the least of these. Such discipleship may very well cost everything, but it isn’t rocket science, either.
Dear Evangelicals, I’m going to need you to do better, to stand up, to show me that you care … or else take the name Jesus out of your mouth.
With nearly one hundred stories published, Maurice Broaddus’ work has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Weird Tales, Apex Magazine, Asimov’s, Cemetery Dance, Black Static, and many more. Some of his stories have been collected in The Voices of Martyrs. He is the author of the urban fantasy trilogy, The Knights of Breton Court trilogy. He co-authored the play Finding Home: Indiana at 200. His novellas include Buffalo Soldier, I Can Transform You, Orgy of Souls, Bleed with Me, and Devil’s Marionette. He is the co-editor of Dark Faith, Dark Faith: Invocations, Streets of Shadows, and People of Colo(u)r Destroy Horror. Learn more about him at MauriceBroaddus.com.
Learn about the work Maurice does as an Asset-Based Community Development consultant at The Learning Tree.